I'm not sure it's my job to develop or propound any sort of "doctrine", but here's what I think about the targeted killing of Iranian nuclear scientists.
First, the assumptions I operate under, in no particular order:
- I think that the Israeli government, or organisations affiliated closely to it, is responsible for those killings. This is not based on any sort of inside knowledge but a crude application of the notion of cui bono? - who stands to benefit?
- I doubt the Iranian government is doing this to keep other nuclear scientists on their toes, or to deal with any dissent by these particular scientists in a more swift and brutal manner than the misgivings of J. Robert Oppenheimer were dealt with by the US Congress in the 1950s.
- Further to 1 above: I don't believe that Iranian dissident groups or your bog-standard criminals have the organisational skill to pull off events like these. Nor do the US have sufficient intelligence on the ground in Iran to play much of a role - even after having tens of thousands of their troops stationed to the west and northeast of Iran, in Iraq and Afghanistan respectively.
- I assume that those scientists identified as having been killed really are dead, and these reports aren't some sort of sympathy-seeking scam on the part of the Iranian government like the supposed death of baby Hana Gaddafi.
- The Iranian government is developing nuclear weapons and its protestations to the contrary are bullshit.
- The Iranian government has a firm and oft-stated policy of wiping the State of Israel off the face of the earth.
- The State of Israel has a right to exist, which means that it has the right to head off threats like the Iranian nuclear program, which is a real and major threat to the existence of Israel.
- I'm equally sure that Israel's ability to do this is limited by the lack of good faith it has shown in dealing with Palestine, which I regard as a real but separate issue.
- Israel may fairly be accused of subverting multilateral measures by these targeted killings, but so are the Iranians for lying about their program; and for developing nuclear weapons with aggressive intent rather than just to participate in "the nuclear club". Faults on both sides, no point hammering one and giving the other a free pass.
- Israel does not have to wait until a nuclear weapon detonates on its territory, or passes into it, or even is completed, given the fact that these are expressly and explicitly to be used against Israel.
Imagine that the Los Alamos Atomic Laboratory had been destroyed, or that individuals associated with it (e.g. Oppenheimer or Edward Teller) had been targeted for killing by the Axis powers or forces allied to them before the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. Such action would have been legitimate acts of war.
Would I be upset if Australian scientists got picked off by bombs? Yes, I would (and not just because Sydney traffic is bad enough as it is). For all the criticisms that may be made of Australian foreign policy, I don't believe that the Australian government is engaged in wiping another country off the face of the earth.
Iranian nuclear scientists are 'combatants'. Yes, they are. Given the regular official harangues against Israel - not dissimilar to those against Iraq before and during the conflict of the 1980s - Iranians who participate in their nuclear program know full well that they are threatening Israel and participating in a malevolent foreign policy. The development of a nuclear program by an explicitly and demonstrably aggressive Iran is the same sort of belligerent act as as the amassing of troops, beating ploughshares back into swords, and other acts indicating that a state is initiating war. Again, Israel is not obliged to place its exclusive trust in international agreements or to be bereft of options should those agreements fail to protect it from destruction.
Iran has been practicing terrorism against Israel, with its rhetorical threats backed up with their support for militant Palestinian elements. Targeting Iranian nuclear scientists has the same terrorist effect. Iran can still exist without its nuclear program, but Iran's threats against Israel are threats to the whole nation, its whole people. I think the targeted killings have been clever and resourceful against heavily protected nuclear scientists who are working to obliterate an entire people.
By contrast, the Iranian government has been boorish and inept in hoping that wiping Israel off the map is some sort of rallying cry for a failed regime. Its treatment of Iranian dissidents does not give the Iranian government, nor anyone else, any grounds to complain about the targeted killings of nuclear scientists.
If the Iranian government caught any agent in the act of preparing or placing those bombs, it would be hard to call for or expect proper due process in dealing with such a person.
Israel's behaviour is far from perfect but in seeking to forestall Iranian nuclear weapons my sympathies are with them, and I believe that sympathies for Iran on this matter (beyond a simple and true human empathy for the grieving families of the individuals killed) are misplaced.